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Whale Report

Saturday 3rd August 2019

15 Whales

Byron Bay




Today there was plenty of action out off the coast of Ballina and Byron Bay. We enjoyed breaching, comp groups, muggings & tail slapping on our Byron Bay Whale Watching Cruises at 8:00am & 11:00am. Conditions are looking good this week, so be sure to book aboard our Byron Bay Whale Watching Cruise.

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Killer Whales in ballina

Passengers aboard our 8am Whale Watching cruise on Saturday had front-row seats to the dramatic spectacle of a juvenile humpback whale being attacked by a pod of 30+ Killer Whales, also known as Orcas just 2 kilometres off the coast of Ballina. This is the full story of Skipper, Dean Fuchs first hand experience.
“I was shocked, amazed and saddened at the same time” Mr Fuchs said.


A Mother, Calf & Male Escort Humpback were frolicking off the coast of Ballina, when a rare scene started to unfold before our eyes. 

In the beginning, the Humpback Whales were showing playful behaviours such as tail slapping, pec slapping and generally making a lot of noise. We had been watching them from a distance for about 15 minutes, before they suddenly went quiet. The whales started displaying strange behaviours, with one of the larger whales moving very fast across the surface of the water. They seemed scared, frantic, quick moving & stressed.

That’s when we sighted the first Killer Whale, which leaped high out of the water and almost landed on top of a Humpback Whale. 

Simultaneously, a pod of 30+ Killer Whales appeared out of the blue and chaos began. They started circling the group of humpbacks and preceded to jump in between them, tactfully separating the mum from the calf. The Orcas seemed well practiced, uniform and excited for the hunt.

"The whole boat was quiet with the occasional, Oh My God.”

The pod of Orcas had divided in two groups, one group was guarding the larger humpbacks so they couldn’t defend the calf. The other group was sadly drowning the calf and killing it. The Humpbacks were terribly out-numbered.

Although there was plenty of thrashing on the surface, a lot of the action happened under the water. When the calf came to the surface, there was blood in the water and it was now 150 metre’s away from the larger Humpbacks. To watch the mother Humpback lose her calf was really sad and confronting, but at the same time it was nature in its rawest form, showing us the circle of life and what Mother Nature does to survive in these vast oceans.

After this dramatic sequence of events we could no longer see the larger Humpbacks and presumed they had left in defeat. The Killer Whales then surrounded the boat for about two hours and seemed to be celebrating their kill by bringing a bit of blubber over to the boat. 

Marine Biologist, Gabrielle explained the different behaviours displayed by the Orcas as it was happening. The Orcas displayed an array of behaviours such as breaching, mugging, tail slapping and tail throwing. One of the Orcas came completely out of the water as it breached close to the boat, some were even spy hopping and taking a look at the people on the boat. They were much like dolphins in regards to their level of activity in comparison to Humpbacks.

There was one individual Orca, which was much larger than the others, believed to be a dominant male with a dorsal fin almost 2 metres high. He was circling the boat for some time and seemed curious and active. The other Orcas often followed him. 

Given the vast distances travelled by the orcas and the speeds at which they travel, it was very unusual for humans to witness such an attack.

For a Whale Watching Cruise to see this is incredibly rare. Some researchers who have been studying Killer Whales their entire lives, have never seen such an event.

Key points:

  • Passengers were watching a mother humpback whale, a calf, and a male escort, when a pod of orcas emerged
  • The orcas separated the calf from the adult humpbacks before attacking it
  • It is unusual for humans to witness such attacks, according to marine wildlife groups
  • Orca sightings on the East Coast of Australia are extremely rare and especially in such large groups

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